A contributor to the opinion column of USA Today came up with a novel suggestion last week. She recommended that the #MeToo movement should now take aim at domestic abuse and expose it publicly, with an emphasis on escalating to the abuser’s place of work. I thought that, though fraught with sensitivities and some negatives, it held some merit and was worth a try. This is so in view of the terrible state of domestic abuse (violence) in this society.
Before proceeding, I must say that I have mixed regard for the #MeToo movement. I think that it has done some much needed good through some very commendable effort, and in bringing focus on a longstanding blight and wrongs. On the other hand, I believe that some of the approaches could have been more temperate, more credible, and less judgmental. Otherwise, there is the danger of a very valid and relevant interest group losing steam and traction, if not following. Now I turn to the thrust of this writing.
The USA Today columnist used the example of disgraced New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, who reportedly brutalized partners (willing partners, according to him), while standing up as a poster boy applauding the #MeToo movement’s work. The former AG described his physical excesses as “foreplay” and consensual. I do not wish to go behind curtains and anywhere near to those deep recesses, but I have two problems: First, it is that those who participate in sadomasochistic rites should be allowed the freedom of their activities; they walk a fine line when they cry foul (or pain); I think this could have been an intrinsic part of those relationships. And second, the sanctity of the private bedchamber is best left to those who have taken up residence inside that threshold. From the reports, in Mr. Schneiderman’s case, the women did just that and remorse came after what ensued. But the difference here is that they protested, they confided with friends, and that is what matters.
With this as a somewhat lengthy recital, I now wish to swing and steer this back into the local environment, and its own set of spiraling horrors. Domestic violence, in the emphatic language of local speech, is a national shame and disgrace; it is a visible, audible, undeniable national scourge. It is the daily terrorism lived by many, whether physical, verbal, sexual, financial, psychological or any of the many other forms in which it has taken firm root. If the battered partners (mainly women) do not object or complain or report, that is usually the end of that. There is little that observers or society can do.
If, however, a local domestic abuse victim makes known officially through police report, or medical attention, or refuge with the sympathetic, or sharing with family and friends, then it is my position (like the columnist’s) that such incidents and torments could and should be used against the perpetrators to move them to take corrective action. The pressure and exposure should reach the abuser’s place of employment. I think that the squeeze to introduce change in mindset, change in attitude, and change in behaviour is worth the effort; this is so, given that this country has very little (if anything) that is working to reduce, even stabilize, the number of harrowing incidents. I think, also, that the drumming up of commensurate outrage, in whatever form, on what is occurring at official and community (and the workplace) fronts will all alert abusers that their behaviour is neither private nor secret, but on the radar, and that a lot of people are listening and watching. This is a lot of peer pressure and from multiple corners. Call it character reference or ongoing probationary report for the abuser. Their behaviour is not protected; it is not a right. Who knows: in time domestic abuse in this society may take its place on the scale of the abhorrence right along aside that associated with child molesters.
Having said all of this, there is the concern that abused women will continue to retreat, as is their wont, in silence and denial, even coverup; that rural communities operate with their own unchanging rhythms and peculiar traditions, to the detriment of those in need of help; and that the needed national groundswell of protest, disgust, and anger (a la the #MeToo movement) is sadly lacking in this society. Stated differently, there is much residual cultural tolerance, if not acceptance, enshrined in that same old sad story of beaters and the beaten; and the sexually predatory, too. Additionally, public exposure (and humiliation) brings the added danger of further enraging reckless abusers and pushing them over the shaky edges on which they exist. It is a fine line on a steep slippery slope.
Still, in the absence of any working solutions, viable options, or other counterforces, I suggest that the violent episodes occurring in the home, and as reported, should make their way into the workplace and public places to salvage something for the victims. I admit that this is limited, paltry and may be meaningless. If, however, only one present or future victim is spared, then some precious ground would have been gained. It is worth the try.